While many involved in the effort feel it’s perhaps a bit overdue, the man being honored by the Streator High School board’s unanimous decision Tuesday night to rechristen its football facility Doug Dieken Stadium has a different word for it.
“I think the word ‘humbling’ is the best way to say it,” Dieken said. “It caught me off guard, and I can’t think of another word other than ‘humbled.’ It’s just a humbling experience for me.
“That’s where my roots are, and I was very fortunate to play with a lot of great guys. We didn’t win a championship when I was there, but we had some good teams with some great guys and some great coaches.”
In the near future – tentatively before this fall’s Week 2 rivalry game against Ottawa, although that’s yet to be set in stone as the school looks into signage and other aspects of turning the idea into a reality at the stadium – Streator will hold a ceremony officially renaming its football facility after its alumnus who made the biggest impact on the game.
Dieken starred at the high school level with the Bulldogs, then at the University of Illinois and finally during a decades-long career in the NFL, first playing and then broadcasting with the Cleveland Browns.
“I’ve got it marked on my calendar,” said Dieken, who intends to return to Streator for the ceremony. “Getting that phone call really took me back.
“You sit there and think, what a great gesture.”
“It’s long overdue,” said Streator assistant principal and new athletic director Nick McGurk, a key figure in moving the naming process forward over the past few months. “It’s pretty exciting to be able to be a part of it.
“I would say growing up, the two most decorated athletes [from Streator High School] in my lifetime are Doug Dieken and [state champion and Division I softball pitcher] Zami Mogill. This brings a little more of your tradition and your history.”
Dieken is a 1967 graduate of Streator, a charter member of the Streator High School Sports Hall of Fame and a member of the Illinois Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
A multi-sport star athlete for the Bulldogs who never played football until his freshman year and as a young man pictured himself more as a basketball player, Dieken went on to play tight end for Illinois. He was drafted by the Browns in the sixth round of the 1971 NFL Draft and converted to left tackle, where he went on to have a 14-season, Pro Bowl career, start 194 consecutive games and win the 1982 NFL Man of the Year Award.
Immediately after retiring as a player in 1984, Dieken joined the Browns radio broadcast team as a color analyst and served in that capacity until retiring from his duties with the Browns this past season. He was honored by the Browns at their final regular season home game earlier this year.
Now Dieken will be honored where his football career started all those years ago.
“The board feels the exact same way [that the honor is well-deserved] and maybe a little past due,” said new Streator superintendent Scott Cameron immediately after Tuesday’s unanimous vote in favor of the renaming. “It’s a good thing for me, being new to the community and seeing the support they’re giving to someone who’s been here and accomplished so much.”